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Motion hearing continued for third time

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- A hearing scheduled to discuss motions in the John VanGammeren perjury case was continued for the third time in three months, according to documents filed in Lyon County District Court.

The latest order for a continuance gives no indication why the hearing did not take place as scheduled last week, but other paperwork filed states court and counsel will conduct a status conference Dec. 21 to discuss several aspects of the case.

VanGammeren, 82, was charged in August with six counts of felony perjury in connection with the three-decade-old murder of Wilma June Nissen, whose body was found in a ditch in October 1978. Nissen's body was not identified until 2006.

The charges accuse VanGammeren of denying knowing who had arranged strippers for a bachelor party, lying about having his wallet stolen by a prostitute and denying knowing a specific prostitute. VanGammeren allegedly stated under oath he had dancers at his residence on two occasions, but never had prostitutes at the house.

Both statements, the document states, can be proven false. VanGammeren also denied ever transporting a stripper or prostitute from Sioux Falls, S.D. to his residence.

Several motions were filed on VanGammeren's behalf within days of his arrest and subsequent release, including a motion to dismiss, a motion for a private preliminary hearing, a motion to unseal the search warrant and a motion requesting the Lyon County Attorney recuse himself as the prosecutor in the case. Until those motions were filed by Edward Bjornstad of the Bjornstad Law Office, none of the documents filed in the case against VanGammeren had tied Nissen's name to his.

The recusal motion states county attorney Carl Petersen administered an oath to VanGammeren before a questioning session in June, and as a result, Petersen is a witness in the proceeding. The state responded to the motion with a document that reports Petersen administered to oath and left the room, whereas Bjornstad remained present throughout questioning, which may have placed him in a position as a witness to statements made by VanGammeren.

In the motion to unseal the search warrant executed at VanGammeren's residence in May, Bjornstad stated the warrant and attachments are critical to the defense of VanGammeren and are believed to include exculpatory evidence. Failure to unseal the warrant would prejudice the defendant.

The resistance to the motion states the search warrant and supporting documents were sealed because of sensitive information that could result in potential witnesses being discouraged to testify in the future and be concerned for their safety. It also contains information that could affect the ongoing investigation, it states.